George Coulman and grandmother Georgina struggled when they moved to Kent. But with help from school nurse Alex Watt their lives have been transformed.
Teenager George Coulman proudly shows off his sporting medals and chats happily with school nurse Alex Watt about performing at the Royal Albert Hall with 500 other youngsters recently.
But for George’s Nan Georgina Yetton his accomplishments are all the sweeter as George, 15, was born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, which affects behaviour and ability to learn.
“He couldn’t sit still, ever,” remembers Georgina. “He ran away, all the time. He would flood the flat we lived in. He wouldn’t eat anything, wouldn’t learn, he ran away from school. Loud bangs would startle him and he would just run.”
When the family moved from their native London to Broadstairs for a fresh start following a series of family bereavements, Georgina was desperate for some support. “We arrived here and had to start all over again getting statement reviews, medication and things like that. But that’s when we met Alex.”
Alex helped the family to access local children’s mental health and social services. She also supported them to identify and fight for a place at a school that could offer George the right education – Parkwood Cooperative Academy in Swanley – where he boards during the week, returning to Thanet every weekend. Alex said: “Because the family were under social services before coming to Kent a lot of agencies got involved with them at the start. They did have very complex family needs but luckily I was able to remain in their lives and help them to get back on their feet. The one thing that George really needs is routine and constancy, and I was the constant one. ”
“She has been our angel”, said Georgina. “She would always make time for us if we had a problem. I had her number on speed dial! I think people should know more about school nurses and how they can help families.”
FASD is a result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her bloodstream passes through the placenta into the foetus’ blood. Because the foetus does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter out the toxins from the alcohol as the mother can. Instead, the alcohol circulates in the foetus’ blood system which can kill brain cells and damage the nervous system of the developing baby throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy. FASD is an umbrella term that covers a range of alcohol-affected birth disorders including learning disability, mood, attention or behavioural issues and heart problems.
FASD is completely avoidable if you don’t drink alcohol while you’re pregnant. For further information search on NHS Choices.